In The Spotlight
In May 2000, Michael J. Fox, best known for his starring role in “Back to the Future,” retired from his role on the ABC television show “Spin City,” and formed The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. From its inception until 2005, the foundation raised nearly $70 million. As a direct result of Fox’s efforts, Parkinson’s
disease research has taken a sharp upward turn, and now his foundation is even driving the development of a genome map of the disease.
The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research proudly reports its efficiency: 84.4 percent of income is directed to research-related activities; 3.3 percent is dedicated to operating costs. The remaining 12.3 percent is set aside for development and fundraising. This means approximately $8.6 million was spent by the foundation to promote itself, raise public awareness about Parkinson’s disease and sponsor activities aimed at increasing contributions. And, it is safe to assume promotional products played an active role in these campaigns.
Celebrity involvement has helped charitable causes gain momentum, according to Cheryl Gallagher, director of marketing at Starline U.S.A., Grand Island, N.Y. Celebrities have always had their causes, but today’s 24-hour, always-connected-media means celebrities “are more visibly involved,” Gallagher said. The celebrities have adapted to the times and now “they’re using their celebrity status to benefit the charities; to try to get people involved,” she said.
Mass media, however, is good at spotlighting small facets. Judging by media coverage, one would not know how many public charities exist in the United States (850,455*) or their reported revenues ($1.1 trillion*). The opportunities are available, so how can distributors capitalize on them? One of the most prominent liaisons between the promotional products world and the non-profit sector is Pat Fisher, president and CEO of Hartleigh Creations, Los Angeles. “The easiest thing for [distributors] to do is talk to their existing clients,” suggested Fisher. She said distributors should ask existing clients about any charities they work with or support, and then see if the client would like to partner for a promotion.